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“Say thank you to the NHS for me”:

Celebrating 75 years of the national health service supporting children

Being healthy, both physically and mentally, is a top priority for children in England. In my 2021 Big Ask survey of over half a million children, just over half (52%) of 9 to 17‑year‑olds said that having good mental health was one of their most important future aspirations, and nearly a third (31%) prioritised good physical health.

Over the past few years, I have heard from thousands of children with physical and mental health needs for whom the NHS is at the centre of their care. To mark the 75th anniversary of the NHS today, I am sharing some of these children’s words about what the service means to them.

It is clear that having lived through a global pandemic, this generation of children are more aware of the importance of good health, and appreciative of the National Health Service, than ever. Children regard the NHS as central to our social recovery, particularly for children with health challenges and disabilities.

‘Covid has stopped us from doing lots of the things we love. Some people are struggling to get past, but I think as a community we can get through it with the help of the NHS.’

– Girl, 10

‘Children might be set back because of their health or their disabilities, so if you could create an antidote for it, I would love that…also, say thank you to the NHS for me.’

– Boy, 10

For many children, the NHS is one of the most important things about living in this country, and something they feel very patriotic about.

“I do believe that the free healthcare was a fantastic idea for everyone in England.”

– Child, 10

Understanding the place the NHS holds in the hearts and mind of children explains why hundreds of children told me about their aspirations to one day work for the NHS in the Big Ask. Children as young as 7 spoke of the value of this service to them and their families, and how it has inspired them to pursue a career helping people.

I want to be a doctor working for the NHS, helping to save people’s lives.”

– Girl, 7

‘I want to achieve to be an NHS doctor with my sister and my niece, so we can work in a team at the NHS.’

– Girl, 9

‘[I want to be] a doctor and a nurse [to] help people in need…My mum is a nurse, it makes me feel like I am important.’

– Girl, 8

‘I want to be a member of staff and be part of the NHS staff…and make people happy.’

– Girl, 8

It is clear that children are incredibly grateful for, and inspired by, our National Health Service – and all the people who make it possible. Whether it’s help for them or for their families, the NHS is as important a pillar in the life of a child as their school.

Children are also aware of the challenges and pressure the NHS is facing, which can impact on their ability to access the services they need, and their experiences when they do. Ensuring the NHS has the staff and resources it needs is something children are very passionate about.

So today, I want to say thank you to the NHS. The services it provides are treasured by both children and adults in this country. We must come together to celebrate all that it has achieved over the past seven decades, and reflect on our shared vision for what it needs to continue being a world-leading health service over the next 75 years.  

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